ARE YOU WILLING TO BE AN ONLINE VOLUNTEER?
In the first part we started the series “Online Volunteering” with a general introduction. We showed some of the ways in which digital technology enables remote collaboration and how you can stay connected and help – even during a pandemic! Since then, you may have wondered if online volunteering is for you. And maybe your non-profit organization could benefit from this kind of involvement. So today we’ll continue our series with some basic questions about what makes a good online volunteer. In the next section, we will look specifically at strategies and tips to help nonprofit organizations get started with online volunteering.
Volunteering 2.0: Is this something for you?
Online volunteering has many advantages. For example, United Nations volunteers say, “Online volunteering is fast, easy and most importantly, effective. But before you get started, you may wonder if this type of volunteering is right for you. To find out, please answer the following questions:
How much time can you volunteer online?
Although volunteering from a distance has its advantages, volunteering online has the same responsibilities and obligations as volunteering on location. It is therefore important to have a realistic idea of how much free time you have available. How will this commitment fit into your everyday life? Ask yourself how much time you could really devote to certain tasks – especially during the pandemic, when most of us are already working from home and have to schedule other types of care. Do you have a regular task (e.g. daily or weekly) or is it a one-off? Does the project have an upper limit for volunteer hours or could you set one with your partner organization? And finally, is there some leeway in case extensions are needed?
What attracts you to online volunteer work?
One of the biggest advantages of online volunteering is the flexibility it offers. Thanks to the Internet, you are no longer tied to where you live because you can now volunteer virtually anywhere in the world. However, online volunteering is not intended to completely eliminate interaction or other forms of interaction. Ask yourself what you find most appealing about the flexibility of online volunteering: is it the opportunity to help during the pandemic? Do you want to get to know other countries and cultures? Or do you just want to use your skills and knowledge outside office hours? Answers to these questions will help you to identify more clearly what could really interest you. And that in turn will help you make the most of your experience as an online volunteer.
How involved will you be in the life of the community/organization?
Some volunteer roles require a higher level of commitment to the organization you are supporting – for example, mentoring or organizational planning. This can take the form of regular staff meetings, participation in group messaging platforms such as Slack, and occasional progress reports. Other tasks, on the other hand, are designed to be performed independently with limited interaction between employees. You may prefer one of the two. So consider beforehand what role you want to play in the organization and/or the community you want to support – more (or less!) involvement could be the key to maintaining your enthusiasm and commitment over time.
Do you enjoy interacting with others?
Even if you are solely responsible for some tasks, as an online volunteer you are still part of a community. When you decide on a project or organization that you want to support, ask yourself how important social interaction is to you. Do you work better when you have the opportunity to get feedback from others? Do you enjoy “virtual happy hours” and other team-building activities where you can feel involved in the project’s daily routine? There are endless possibilities when it comes to online volunteer work. When you think about what kind of experience you want to have, you can choose (or create!) the role that best suits your personality.
What is the organizational culture?
Regardless of whether you are volunteering for a project or an established organization, these “places” will have their own work cultures and work processes. Are there specific platforms or tools that your colleagues use to manage tasks, provide feedback or stay connected? Are you familiar with them or could you learn to use them for your tasks? Have you already set up a profile or are you given access to organizational accounts? If you don’t know the answer, don’t be afraid to have a little briefing before committing to a role – you’ll save yourself (and your colleagues!) a lot of valuable time!
Do you have a reliable Internet connection?
This question may be obvious, but it is crucial! From where will you volunteer online? If you are thinking of joining during the pandemic, this will most likely mean working from home. Do you share your Internet connection with other family members or roommates? Are there certain times of the day that are quieter for you or when the Internet runs faster? Do you share any devices (such as microphones, headsets, cameras, etc.) with others? All these devices make a big difference to your work as an online volunteer!
Motivation is the key in any volunteer work, but as an online volunteer it is especially important that you have the ability to motivate yourself. If online volunteering is new to you, it is also important that you know yourself well. Only then can you choose the role and project that will keep you focused and enthusiastic. If you want to get involved, or if you think you have the time and skills to help others in this crisis, online volunteering might be right for you. Would you like to give it a try?